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Young Patients Receive Hope From Musician

Longtime musician and resident of Chicago’s West Lawn community Robert Suster recently released his first CD, called ÒHope Peace Love,” and staying true to the title, is making copies available to anyone who makes a minimum $10 donation to Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn.

The CDs are also on sale either as digital downloads or hard copies on Internet sites such as iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.com. ÒI hope to be on Pandora soon too,” said Suster, referring to the Internet music site.

Donations given to Hope in exchange for the CD will go toward buying sound machines for patients’ rooms at the children’s hospital, an affiliate of Advocate Christ Medical Center and located next-door at 4440 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn.

ÒThe goal is to get sound machines for every room,” said Sarah Cutrara, director of development at Hope. She explained that all the patients in the 69-bed hospital have private rooms, but hallway noise and sounds coming from other rooms may cause anxiety in patients who are often already dealing with life-threatening illnesses. ÒThe goal is to get 32 more machines,” she said this week, when Suster brought the first case of CDs to the hospital.

ÒI just thought it would be a nice thing to do to help some of these kids who are a little less fortunate than us,” he said. ÒI was also born next door at Christ Hospital and my father was treated there. My mother died there, unfortunately, but I have that connection to the hospital,” said Suster, explaining why he chose to donate to Hope Children’s Hospital and to suggest the donation offer.

Cutrara said the sound machines, which cost about $100 each, are equipped to play soothing background noise, such as seashore sounds.

ÒI hope they play CDs, too,” said Suster with a grin. They do, said Cutrara. Suster said she was welcome to pass out CDs to the patients also.

Suster, a 1983 graduate of Curie High School, first started playing guitar as an eighth-grader at Hurley School. He entered Curie through the Access to Excellence program, and learned to play jazz there with the school band.

ÒWell, we were supposed to be playing jazz, but as soon as the teacher left, we broke into REO (Speedwagon) or something,” said Suster, who went on to front a local band named Teaser.

Most recently, Suster, worked for 18 years for the Chicago Board of Education, installing and maintaining security systems at schools. He is now working on opening his own electronic security business, but he has always stayed involved in music, and is already working on his second album.

He wrote all 12 songs on ÒHope Peace Love,” mainly love songs, and said he has plenty more in the works. ÒSome had to be left off this album, and I’m always working on songs,” said Suster, who is never far away from his Taylor guitar. He also took most of the photos in the lyrics booklet, scenic shots of around the Grand Canyon and the desert Southwest. He has a 24-track digital studio in his house, where he did the preliminary work on the album, which was recorded at Pumpkin Studios in Orland Park.

Suster produced the album with Gary Loizzo, lead singer of The American Breed, the ’60s band known for their hit song ÒBend Me, Shape Me.” Loizzo also worked with bands such as REO Speedwagon and Styx, and is currently touring with Dennis DeYoung of Styx, another Chicagoan. He and his son Todd Loizzo, also a musician, played on the album, along with guitarist Glen Gerini, who teaches out of his studio at 7121 W. Archer Ave., in Garfield Ridge. ÒHe taught me guitar, and continues to be my mentor,” said Suster.

Suster offered to come back to Hope and play some of his songs for the patients at a later date. ÒI think the kids would like a lot of the songs,” he said. His music has been categorized as alternative rock, and his style has been compared to groups such as Coldplay and Five for Fighting, and Rob Thomas.

Anyone interested in making a donation to Hope Children’s Hospital may visit the hospital or contact Cutrara there at (708) 684-5231. More information is also available on the Web site at http://www.advocatechildrenshospital.com under the link for Support Services.

Donors are asked to note that their donation is for the CD fund-raiser. Cutrara said the hospital will mail CDs to donors if they are unable to come in. ÒI’d just love to help them out. To keep the kids’ spirits up and help the hospital achieve its goal,” said Suster, who can be found on Facebook and MySpace.

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